More than one in eight people in the U.S. population are of Spanish or Latin American origin.
Collectively, this group is referred to as Hispanics or Latinos. The Census Bureau estimates that by the
end of the year 2050, Hispanics will constitute about one-quarter of the U.S. population. Already Census
2000 showed 35.3 million Latinos, outnumbering the 34.7 million African Americans.
• Some prevailing images of Hispanic settlements in the United States are no longer accurate. Latinos do
not live in rural areas. They are generally urban dwellers: 86 percent live in metropolitan areas, in
contrast to 73 percent of the general population. Some Hispanics have moved away from their
traditional areas of settlement. In 1940, 88 percent of Puerto Ricans residing in the United States lived in
New York City, but by the 2000 Census the proportion had dropped to less than a third.
• A large number of Mexicans became aliens in the United States without ever crossing any border.
These people first became Mexican Americans with the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. In the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed February 2, 1848, Mexico acknowledged the annexation of Texas by
the United States and ceded California and most of Arizona and New Mexico to the United States for
• In exchange, the United States granted citizenship to the 75,000 Mexican nationals who remained on
the annexed land after one year. With citizenship, the United States was to guarantee religious freedom,
property rights, and cultural integrity—that is, the right to continue Mexican and Spanish cultural
traditions and to use the Spanish language.
• Nowhere else in the world do two countries with such different standards of living and wage scales
share such an open border as Mexico and the United States. Immigration from Mexico is unique in
1) It has been a continuous, large scale movement for most of this century. The United States did not
restrict immigration from Mexico through legislation until 1965.
2) The proximity of Mexico encourages past immigrants to maintain strong cultural and language ties
with the homeland through friends and relatives. Return visits to the old country are only one- or two-
day bus rides for Mexican Americans, not once in a lifetime voyages, as they were for most European
3) There is an aura of illegality that has surrounded Mexican migrants. Throughout the twentieth
century, the suspicion in which Anglos have held Mexican Americans has contributed to mutual distrust
between the two groups.
• The years before World War I brought large numbers of Mexicans into the expanding agricultural
industry of the Southwest. The Mexican revolution of 1909-1922 thrust refugees into the United States, and World War I curtailed the flow of people from Europe, leaving the labor market open to the
Mexicans Americans. After the war, continued political turmoil in Mexico and more prosperity in the